back to article NASA's zombie IMAGE satellite is powered up and working quite nicely

NASA has updated the status of its once-was-lost, now-is-found IMAGE satellite and revealed the bird's power supplies are operational. The space agency will therefore attempt to revive the mission – if it can find money to fund the effort. As The Register previously reported, IMAGE (the Imager for Magnetopause-to-Aurora Global …

Anonymous Coward

Ahh...the old 'drain the power...

...to turn it off and on again' fix.

Reboot FTW

50
0
Silver badge
Trollface

Re: Ahh...the old 'drain the power...

Well... it IS a bit hard to get all the way up there to switch it off and on manually...

21
0

Re: Ahh...the old 'drain the power...

Actually, it is quite easy to get something up there and give the switch a good, percussive maintenance. The really hard part is having the sat in one piece afterwards.

33
1
Silver badge

WTF

Why wouldn't they build some sort of deadman switch in the satellite using a simple microcontroller such that if it didn't receive a signal from the ground over a certain period of time, or didn't see any evidence that the CPU was running, or other 'catastrophic' conditions that it would reset the power itself?

1
7
Silver badge

Re: WTF

They have, but in space things can fail in weird ways. In fact since it came online again, it most likely rebooted many times just because of that.

21
0
Silver badge
Headmaster

Re: "Why wouldn't they build some sort of deadman switch"

The Halting Problem would like a word with you after class.

19
0
Silver badge
Pint

Re: WTF

"...some sort of deadman switch..."

The phrase you're searching for is "Watchdog Timer".

An overly-simple example is a 555 timer chip, where the properly functioning software gives it a periodic pulse to prevent the timer chip from resetting the CPU. If the software falls over, then the CPU is (hardware) reset / rebooted. In the real world, there are such hardware watchdog timers built-into many CPUs. Or built-into a related support IC.

Another related phrase is "Safe Mode".

20
0
tfb
Silver badge

Re: "Why wouldn't they build some sort of deadman switch"

If the software running on the spacecraft's main system suffers from halting problems then you've already lost: you don't write programs to run on spacecraft which try to solve problems which only may have answers. So a watchdog reset is perfectly straightforward: 'if watchdog reset is enabled, and if the main CPU has not reset its timer in n seconds or nothing has been heard from the ground in m seconds, power cycle the system'. I'm sure spacecraft have such things.

8
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: "Why wouldn't they build some sort of deadman switch"

Most of the have that. And a secondary reboot system too.

1
0

@TechnicalBen Re: "Why wouldn't they build some sort of deadman switch"

Ok, now I just need to write a program to tell me whether class ever ends.

7
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Ahh...the old 'drain the power...

I was actually told that a couple of month ago at an Airport...

"We're sorry for the delay, there is minor fault on the aircraft, engineers are going to cycle the system to try to get it cleared."

Nice attempt at cover up, but I can recognise and "off and on again" at 300 yards.

Sometimes I really wish I wasn't a techie about to get on a plane after hearing that.

(Just for clarity, I didn't die).

10
0

Re: WTF

Maybe because it's something else that might fail in the wrong position?

1
0
Silver badge

Re: Ahh...the old 'drain the power...

Just for clarity, I didn't die

Glad you cleared that up. The suspense was overwhelming!

5
0
Silver badge
Trollface

Re: Ahh...the old 'drain the power...

"The suspense was overwhelming!"

Didn't you see "Ghost"...? He might still be able to type either way, so it's good to clear up any confusion!

0
0

Re: Ahh...the old 'drain the power...

@AC - it's OK, we know what to do with non-functional users around here..

FZZZTTTACKKK!

-one user-rebooted.

Cattle-prods, the answer to so many of life's little problems...

0
0
Silver badge
Alien

Ooooops, sorry!

What do you mean, "we broke something when we came out of warp"? Nothing should be here according to our info. What??? It looks like something made by another lifeform? Oh sh*t, now that's torn it, they'll be docking another of my tentacles if anyone finds out. Tell you what, let's take it with us, get it fixed and then put it back in the same place next time we're around these parts.

Sorted!

88
0
Silver badge
Mushroom

Re: Ooooops, sorry!

Its a Mysteron Satelitte, they like to blow things up and recreate them.

4
0
Holmes

Sound like we need a failure review of the failure review board

See: https://image.gsfc.nasa.gov/publication/document/IMAGE_FRB_Final_Report.pdf

NASA conducts a failure review whenever any mission ends unexpectedly. It's good practice. But when an amateur manages to find that a satellite has revived itself, and NASA had no idea, that's, well, troubling.

The FRB stated: "It is unlikely that the IMAGE mission can be revived. However, the October 2007

eclipse season may permit a Transponder SSPC reset (and a re-powering of the

Transponder), but this is not certain given that the main bus reset level may really be 21

V."

However, they did say: " If revival occurs, the mission should be able to continue as before with no limitations."

4
13
Silver badge

Re: Sound like we need a failure review of the failure review board

NASA doesn't have the budget to keep a mission "on hold" indefinitely. NASA kept listening until somewhere in 2008 IIRC then declared the mission lost and moved on. It took until at least end of 2014 before the satellite came back online. NASA did it's due diligence, concluded the mission was over when the time window for a likely reset was over and got on with other missions.

27
0
Silver badge

Re: No idea in this case...

But occasionally a faulty alignment/thruster/incident of somesuch, can send a solar panel or power state off. Thus until it then realigns due to natural orbit, alignment, or if CPU error a stray cosmic ray(!) then it will sit "asleep" the entire time.

IIRC one mars orbiter team used the actual atmosphere to realigned it's panels (well, the entire craft) when a thruster failed.

5
0
Silver badge

Unless they're dancing...

if it can can money to fund the effort.

OK, the less said about Reg editing, the better, but this looks like a project small enough to be a good crowdfunding target.

20
0
Silver badge
Paris Hilton

Re: Unless they're dancing...

if it can can money to fund the effort.

OK, the less said about Reg editing, the better

Maybe El Reg scribes are fans of the Folies Bergère?

(Vaguely related icon chosen.)

6
1

Re: Unless they're dancing...

small enough to be a good crowdfunding target.

As per the IEEE reboot I took part in funding a while back....it was very exciting to be a part of

1
0
Silver badge

Re: Unless they're dancing...

Yes, I read that and immediately got a mental image of a bunch of nerdy NASA engineers putting on a stage show to raise the funds.

That probably says more about me than the editorial abilities of El Reg.

2
0
Silver badge

Re: Unless they're dancing...

If it's to further space flight I'm quite prepared to flash my petticoats in a Belle-Époque-style burlesque show. You only have to ask NASA.

1
0
Silver badge

???

After the reset can I log in with admin/password?

On a serious note, how do they communicate with and administer satellites?

3
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: ???

Satellite phone....

39
0
Silver badge

Re: ???

"Satellite phone...."

Well done.

2
5
Silver badge
Windows

Re: ???

@Kane:

There's an app for that.

0
0
Silver badge

Re: ???

Points to the first SDR hacker to successfully decode the telemetry from the satellite.

// you know you want to

0
0
Bronze badge

Well

You would assume they create a library about 2000 lines of code which encrypts+authenticates commands and protects from modification and replay attacks.

Something like I wrote in a few days: https://github.com/DiplIngFrankGerlach/MST

Having said that, NASA has a history of very weak network security. So maybe I am wrong :-(

0
0

Funding?

This seems like a no-brainer. There is a functioning satellite available to be used. In terms of bang-for-buck, it doesn't get much better than that.

5
3
Silver badge

Re: Funding?

I was wondering about that, but it struck me that the ongoing costs of running the science, reserving comms bandwidth and broadcast slots, having controllers keep it in position from time to time, not yet considering the task (in time and equipment) of rebuilding the ground systems would be non-trivial. And those funds will have been allocated elsewhere.

It may be that they can slip in a request for additional federal funds, or shelve it until next financial year or something...

2
0
Silver badge

Re: Funding?

I doubt ground stations would need to be *rebuilt* they just need to tune in to the correct frequency and position...

4
1
Silver badge

Re: Funding?

"I doubt ground stations would need to be *rebuilt* they just need to tune in to the correct frequency and position..."

This depends... Sometimes the receivers need special hardware to receive the data. If said hardware is lost/scrapped you need to re-create it.

Also the deep space network can get pretty busy looking after things, as there are bunches of satellites outside of earth orbit (quite a few in or about Mars).

3
1
Silver badge

Re: Funding?

Ah, yes, but this is NASA we're talking about. There are loads of great people there which means politics and bureaucracy. And, because, it's America lots of interference from Congress. That they still manage to get anything done is amazing in itself.

18
0
Silver badge

As in any big company that takes time

Imagine you'd find a surefire way of earning your company a billion in 2 weeks if you act now and invest 10k. You will be unable to get funding for it, as it simply takes time to organize spending so much money at any company.

I mean NASA may be somewhat more efficient than most companies its size, after all it has a high percentage of engineers and scientists, however such things still take time. Budgets need to be revised, teams must be built.

7
0
Silver badge

Re: Funding?

"This depends... Sometimes the receivers need special hardware to receive the data. If said hardware is lost/scrapped you need to re-create it."

There's specifications for those instruments, and typically they have some way of giving you raw IQ data at a given fidelity. This is essentially laboratory equipment and therefore rather flexible by design.

4
0

Re: Funding?

Just tell Trump it will disprove Global Warming and has a special laser that will erase any information that might be used to prosecute him whilst making his hands normal sized. Job Done.

11
1
Silver badge

Re: Funding?

I'd be surprised if there isn't some sort of standard for satellite control and status comms by this point (sure, this particular sat may have been to early to get it)

0
0
Silver badge

Re: Funding?

You must be new here (how did you get that silver badge?)

Here's the standard XKCD on standards.

4
0
Silver badge

Re: Funding?

"(quite a few in or about Mars)."

I suspect the deep space network doesn't have to spend too much time communicating with the satellites that are *in* Mars.

3
0
Silver badge

Re: Funding?

I doubt ground stations would need to be *rebuilt*

Aye, but I didn't say ground stations - I said ground systems, so whilst radio receivers will work fine, they may need different antennae for different frequencies (unlikely), extra hardware allocated to receive the data (which will need assembled and configured), extra systems to decode it and store the raw data, and then you have the systems for people to look at it (which, to be fair, can be put on ice until extra funds are available, so long as the data is being stored safely).

0
0
Silver badge

Re: Funding?

Well, There seems to be a chap with a laptop and an RTL-SDR that may be able to help. Why not hire him?

3
0
Silver badge

Re: Funding?

Just tell Trump it will disprove Global Warming

Whatever he says the Orange one doesn't get to write the budget.

0
0

Re: Funding?

Whatever he says the Orange one doesn't get to write the budget.

Who said he would ask America to pay for it?

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Flat Earth Heretic

"NASA has updated the status of its once-was-lost, now-is-found IMAGE satellite and revealed the bird's power supplies are operational."

Now - can we point it at Earth to photograph the planet and finally clear those people who think the planet is flat?

3
0
Silver badge

Re: Flat Earth Heretic

I don't think anything short of strapping them to the side of a rocket and showing them the view from 100 miles up would have much effect.

11
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Flat Earth Heretic

"[...] and showing them the view from 100 miles up would have much effect."

Some people have an amazing ability to ignore any consistently reproducible evidence that conflicts with their world view. To accept the misalignment could catastrophically destroy a large part of their identity.

9
0
Silver badge

Re: Flat Earth Heretic

I didn't specify if they'd get a space suit, or a way to return...

5
0

Page:

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Forums

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2018